On Monday night, there were two people I really felt sorry for after the dramatic win by Ikeys over Pukke in Potch. No, it was not the home side’s flyhalf who attempted a drop goal instead of just kicking the ball out, or the scrumhalf who could also have kicked.
It was the Stormers coaches.
Poor old Alistair Coetzee and Robbie Fleck must have really felt bad when UCT showed just how Province used to play rugby, and can still play, if players are given the freedom to use their talent which got them into the side in the first place.
I think the last time Fleck felt this bad was when Deon Kayser mowed him down under the Sharks goal posts as he strolled over for a try.
Click here to relive the moment.
On paper, the Highlanders appear to have a relatively easy match on Friday. They are only two points behind the Bulls on the log, have played one game less, and take on the Bulls at home.
The visitors have been decimated by injuries to key players, and even had to rope in Victor Matfield, who was not scheduled to play on tour. The line-out will no doubt play a key role in their plans for the match and, with Jaques-Louis Potgieter returning to the flyhalf berth, they are in fact in a better position to win than they were when they took the field last weekend.
My only problem lies at scrumhalf – Hougaard is still not up to the required standard. They have nothing to lose by picking Piet van Zyl ahead of him, and stand to gain some sparkle which the current incumbent appears to lack.
Whether he is just playing under instructions is not clear, but his sideways shuffle, two-step pass just places his backline under so much pressure that they cannot perform at their best. Then there is also his far less than satisfactory tactical kicking which only serves the purpose of gifting the opposition with hard-won Bulls possession.
Cheetahs not in enviable position
If your team lies second last, and you have to face the mighty Crusaders, albeit at home, the coach must be a tad concerned, given that they have tasked themselves with winning all their remaining matches.
A big positive is the fact that they managed to select an unchanged starting line-up. Drotské is upbeat about their relatively minor injury list compared to most other teams which does bring a lot more continuity compared to the likes of the Stormers and Bulls.
One aspect of his pre-match commentary that concerns me a little is the following statement quoted on the Supersport website:
“The Crusaders are a very physical side that relies on momentum. “They want to get over the advantage line and have a very patient game plan that they follow to achieve that. They love taking the ball through many phases. We know how and who we need to tackle, but we need to be precise in doing so.
“If we can protect our possession with two or three players, we will have more players on their feet that can attack from there. We know that we have to execute for 80 minutes if we want to beat them.”
In my view, this is exactly where the Free Staters went wrong in the second half of the match against the Chiefs which they should have won.
Naka, my voorstel is dat julle self besit hou van die bal en jul uitstekende agterlyn aanwend. Daar is min spanne wat sonder die bal kan wen, en dit is dalk net is die beste manier om die verhoed dat daar so baie punte teen julle aangeteken word.
Dit herinner my aan Kallie Knoetze wat op skool gevra is om ‘n sin te maak met defence, attack en quarrel. Sy beste poging is toe: “I climb over defence, I pick attack of grapes and eat it quarrel for quarrel.”
Lions Face Big Hurdle
The Lions have very much the same mountain to climb as the Cheetahs when they take on the overall log leaders, the Sharks, at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The visitors’ side is yet to be named, but they will no doubt pick a side capable of handling the aerial attack from Marnitz Boshoff, who, apart from last weekend, was the driving force behind the Lions’ success this season. The changes in the Sharks side will mostly be in the back three to counter this threat.
The Lions did not take kindly to losing their first home game last week, and will be motivated to set matters right. Despite what the media said about the Crusaders, I still believe that the Lions would have won the game if key players played the way they did all season.
Extra motivation for the Lions comes from the fact that this is their last match before they depart for Australasia, but I suspect that the Sharks will just have too much muscle, and win the game.
The Sharks, of course, play Bulls style rugby better than the team from Pretoria has done in years, and will rely on the old “subdue and conquer” approach to consolidate their place at the top.